Rich Freeloaders & a
Kid’s Letter to Romney
In 2009, most Americans were being crushed under a collapsing financial system that had been recklessly rigged in favor of Wall Street firms. Those who sought temporary unemployment insurance included the near destitute, and also, a couple of thousand millionaires, according to a recent report.
Three years later last May, another millionaire, Mitt Romney, clinched the Republican nomination for the presidency of the U.S. ‘Political pundit’ Jackson Ripley couldn’t let that pass. In a letter to the nominee, Ripley told him that his ‘plan for America isn’t what we need.’
Ripley, believe it or not, does not work for any of the self-celebratory media outlets out covering the presidential campaign. In fact he still has a full year before even applying to a Colorado high school. That’s because he’s a 12-year-old with a younger sister, Kennedy, who’s been struggling with a medical condition that the Romney’s healthcare plan wouldn’t cover.
That these two fringe cases are not just part of the campaign, but also pack more heat than most of what’s being ‘debated’ by President Obama and his challenger, and still got so little traction in the news cycle, is itself revealing. As soon as the election is decided, another substance-free discussion is already waiting on deck: the one over the federal budget.
The fight will probably be either over deeper cuts in social programs, or increasing tax breaks to the very wealthy. That will most likely bury any nuanced discussion about millionaires who didn’t need it and were, in fact, against the welfare system, collecting benefits, while impoverished millions having theirs cut off short, when they needed the most.
THE REAL WELFARE QUEENS
The bipartisan Congressional Research Service report found that 2,400 of those ‘desperadoes,’ who have received at least some unemployment insurance in 2009, were not so desperadoes: they lived in ‘households with annual incomes of $1 million or more.’ If you remember, at the time, there was increasing pressure to curb the number of weeks the unemployed could receive benefits.
Under the opposition of the then minority GOP in Congress, the president signed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which allowed additional weeks of benefits for those who qualified to it. For those who’d lost their jobs, those extra few hundred dollars a week became the difference between managing the crisis, or moving into the nearest park. Sadly, that’s exactly what happened next to many.
Of the over 11 million taxpayers who collected benefits in 2009, there was also another group of almost a thousand households earning more than $100,000 disputing the dwindling state and federal monies, according to the August report. So it may have been the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but a group of the privileged also thought of themselves as entitled to be helped.
Assuming that these households have preserved their earning power, they’d also stand to gain with the Romney plan to cut taxes for those in their income bracket. At press time, we hadn’t heard any word as to whether there’s an effort by some to return their probably unused benefit checks to state, so to redistribute them to those that neither then, nor now, are even close to make $100,000 a year.
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY
The straightforward focus of the Coloradan boy’s letter is a scathing criticism of Romney’s vow to undo the Obamacare in his first weeks in office. Ripley should know a thing or two about healthcare. His sister Kennedy was born with hemangioma, a blood vessel tumor on her face, that threatened her life even before her first birthday
A two-year marathon in and out of hospitals and specialized care drained the family resources and, if it hadn’t been for the approval of the Affordable Care Act, Kennedy would’ve been denied coverage and most likely died. The Obamacare has its flaws but it’s a shoe-in for cases such as Kennedy’s pre-existing condition. As it is, it’ll cover her treatment for the rest of her otherwise healthy life.
Not so if Romney has his way. Ripley wrote: ‘when you were interviewed on “Meet the Press”, you stated that you would not repeal this part of Obama Care, but then your campaign backpedalled and on the “Tonight show with Jay Leno”, you said that you would repeal this.’ The fact that this kid seems to have done his homework, makes us wonder who are those people who consider themselves ‘undecided?’
On his letter, he also takes digs at Romney’s ‘domestic plans,’ showing command of issues concerning women’s health, birth control and gay rights. ‘People should be able to marry whom they want,’ he wrote, and ‘this country was in no way built on any religion.’ We’re convinced Ripley will go places, or rather, he definitely must.
THE MISSING DEMOGRAPHICS
The issues in this presidential campaign have been so transparent, the need to address our widening social gap so blatant, and the clarity of some of the proposed solutions so self-evident, that’s still shock us the amount of good, intelligent Americans who refuse to take part in this political cycle.
For either by design, as it’s happening with returning Veterans, or hardship, as with the unemployed whose priority is to fend for their families from day to day, it’s sad how the decisive contribution of many groups of struggling Americans is missing in the current campaign. It gets even more depressing when you add the young, the labor engaged, even the academically capable.
A movement such as Occupy Wall Street, for example, to many the freshest and most powerful tool for social change to spontaneously emerged in the past 50 years, should not have to give in under the weight of its own idealism and political naivete. Diametrically opposed, the labor unions should not have been so crystallized into an outdated idea of power to be so ineffective at this time.
When a young kid such as Jackson Ripley thinks that his opinion is important enough to be heard and discussed, he’s right in so many ways. Mainly having less to do with his personal stake on the issues, and more with the vacuum of civil participation which he’s intuitively trying to fill.
He’s unfortunately the exception among kids his age, who soon will (Jackson, don’t read what follows) be overwhelmed by the obscenely competitive game that has become applying and being admitted into a public high school in this country. We hope he won’t forget the lessons he taught himself to the nation a year before.
THE TAKERS & THE UNDECIDED
At this juncture, there’s a dramatic shortage of a few (more) good men and women to help sway the political winds towards a more egalitarian society, hopefully capable to also delay the sellout of our democracy. It’s no wonder that, to some extent, we’ve become a nation of wealthy freeloaders and clueless undecided voters.
We need to call the former by what they are, and wake up the latter from their deep sleep. We must let the dispossessed and the hopelessly naive back into this discussion, even if they stink and don’t dress appropriately. We have to have the war wounded to take center stage and show the scourge our war taxes is creating overseas.
And yes, we need to let our kids in the political discussions of our time. It’s crucial that we replace with moral and humanitarian values the toxic religious zealotry that we’ve allowed for so long to sit next to them in schools across the country. It’s kids like Jackson who should be on those presidential debate stages, not the nimrods who are still ‘disappointed’ with the government.